All things being equal, Tony Cingrani and David Holmberg shouldn't have been in Louisville on Sunday. But due to circumstances beyond their control, they helped the Bats make history instead.
Along with right-hander Sam LeCure, the pitchers combined for Triple-A Louisville's first nine-inning no-hitter in a 5-0 win against Toledo at Fifth Third Field.
"[There's] nothing more rewarding than watching the guys do something special like this. It's been an up-and-down season for all of us and to go into the All-Star break with a performance like today feels pretty good," manager Delino DeShields said. "Today was a really laid-back day, guys are making flights and plans to go home, there was no batting practice because it rained. We didn't know if we were going to play. It just came out of the blue."
In his third rehab outing, Cingrani got things started by striking out five over four innings. The 26-year-old southpaw issued three walks and plunked Mike Hessman, but worked his way in and out of trouble to keep his rehab stint scoreless.
Cingrani has held opponents to two hits while striking out 12 in nine innings since injuring his shoulder.
"He's getting closer. He was a lot better today. He just has to build his stamina back up, get stretched out, but his stuff was good today," the skipper said. "The biggest difference between his first start and today was the fastball command. I think his fastball command was a lot better. He was down in the zone, on the plate, but he still has a little ways to go."
The Rice product then turned the ball over to Holmberg (5-6), who was supposed to start in Miami on Thursday with Cincinnati. A rainout pushed his start back further and led to his appearance with the Bats.
After 10 days of rest, the 23-year-old left-hander worked around a leadoff walk in the fifth to retire the next nine Mud Hens. Holmberg struck out three and forced four groundouts before passing the baton.
"It's just a chance for him to pitch going into the All-Star break," DeShields said. "He was good; he was a little stronger. He's had a long layoff since his last start…. but he made enough quality pitches to get it done."
The manager handed the ball over to LeCure in the eighth to secure the final six outs. The 31-year-old right-hander utilized 11 pitches and two strikeouts to send the Mud Hens down in order and put the milestone just three outs away.
"We were all aware of what was going on, the scoreboard is right there in your face, but it got serious in the last inning when Sammy went back out," the skipper said. "(Our team was) chirping pretty much the whole game, but they got quiet the last couple hitters ... everybody got real quiet in the dugout.
"I think they were just holding on. We've seen stranger things happen when guys are attempting to do things like that."
LeCure struck out leadoff hitter Alexi Casilla and that's when DeShields realized the Bats had a real chance at the no-hitter. Then top Tigers prospect Steven Moya grounded out and LeCure struck out Hessman.
After 302 Major League games, the three pitchers made some Minor League history.
"They were happy; not every day you get to see a no-hitter. I don't care how many guys throw [one]; a no-hitter is a no-hitter," DeShields said. "Just the way things worked out ... if Cingrani wasn't here rehabbing, Holmberg would've been the starter today, but the guys still have to go up there and do their job.
"Throwing a no-hitter is not an easy thing to do, it takes a total team effort. Guys made some great plays today, scored some runs and the pitching was good."
The milestone was the second one in the Minors this weekend, with Ryan Merritt hurling one for Double-A Akron on Saturday.
As a player, DeShields was part of perfect games thrown by the Expos' Dennis Martinez and the Dodgers' Hideo Nomo. But he deemed his first no-no as a manager to be a little more rewarding. Louisville previously recorded two no-hitters, one by Billy Farmer vs. Toledo on Aug. 24, 1970 and one by Larry Luebbers vs. Charlotte on May 14, 2000, but Sunday marked the club's first nine-inning no-no.
"I guess we're in the history books," DeShields laughed. "We all want to be remembered for something. I guess this isn't a bad way to be remembered."
Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan.